The history of beer is fascinating. We don’t know how people first first came to make beer. An accident probably wet some grain. The grain then fermented from yeast in the environment. When humans discovered the effects of drinking the resulting liquid, they replicated what had happened accidentally.
Nor does anyone know when or where this discovery occurred. Because fermentation occurs naturally, brewing probably developed independently around the world.
People have made beer long before the dawn of civilization. Some anthropologists believe that prehistoric nomads made beer from wild grain before they learned how to make bread. They believe that the desire to make beer led nomads to form settlements.
The history of beer is a long one. It continues from thousands of years ago up to the present time. Following each timeline is a list of resources for continuing your discoveries about beer.
- Beer Before Christianity
Brewing beer may have preceeded baking bread.
- Beer in Early Christianity & Beyond
After the fall of the Roman Empire, monasteries maintained brewing knowledge and skill.
- Beer in the 15th Century
The history of beer in the 15th century was a period of slow change. But there were efforts to ensure the quality of beer and ale.
- Beer in the 16th Century
The history of beer in the 16th century was one of very high consumption by today’s standards. It was also a period during which regulation increased. The goal of such regulations was to ensure purity of beer, income of workers, fire safety, and high tax revenues. It wasn’t to reduce consumption.
- Beer in the 17th Century
The crew of the Mayflower did not have enough beer to get to Virginia and back to England. So they dropped the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock to preserve their beer stock.
- Beer in the 18th Century
The industrialization of beer began with the invention and development of the steam engine.
- Beer in the 19th Century
Refrigeration, automatic bottling, pasteurization, and railroad distribution all contributed to a revolution in brewing and beer distribution.
- Beer in the 20th Century & Beyond
Massive changes have occurred in beer in the 20 and 21st centuries. They have occurred in such areas as law, advances in brewing science, business organization, and evolving taste preferences.
Discover More about the History of Beer
- Bickerdyke, J. The Curiosities of Ale & Beer. An Entertaining History. London: Spring Books, 1965.
- Bostwick, W. The Brewer’s Tale. A History of the World According to Beer, NY: Norton, 2014.
- Dayagi-Mendeles, M. Drink and be Merry. Wine and Beer in Ancient Times. Jerusalem: The Israel Museum, 1999.
- Eames, A. Secret Life of Beer. Legends, Lore & Little-known Facts. North Adams, MA: Storey, 2013
- King, A. Beer Has a History. London: Hutchinson’s, 1947.
- Nelson, M. The Barbarian’s Beverage. London: Routledge, 2005.
- Patterson, M., and Hoalst-Pullen, N. The Geography of Beer. Dordrecht: Springer, 2014.
- Smith, G. Beer: a Global History. London: Reaktion, 2014.
- ______. Beer: a History of Suds and Civilization from Mesopotamia to Microbreweries. NY: Avon, 1995.